Council to consider formal e-scooter ban at Nov. 27 meeting

Asheville city seal

When scooter-share company Bird flew onto the streets of Asheville in October, its wings were quickly clipped by city staff. Citing ordinances that prohibited the parking and driving of vehicles on public sidewalks, the city rounded up approximately 200 electric scooters and impounded them at the Public Works building — then asked Judge Alan Thornburg to issue a temporary restraining order against Bird after the firm allegedly reneged on a promise to remove its e-scooters from the streets.

City Council will now evaluate stronger regulations that specifically target e-scooters at its regular meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 14. A proposed change to the city’s Code of Ordinances would prohibit the operation of any such self-propelled two-wheeled device, whether privately owned or rented from a company such as Bird, on all public property within Asheville city limits.

In a staff report issued to Council before the meeting, Transportation Department Director Ken Putnam said the city had “public health, safety and welfare concerns” regarding the use of e-scooters. He noted that doctors at several U.S. hospitals, the majority based in Bird’s home state of California, had expressed worry about unregulated e-scooter activity.

Putnam also addressed the city’s issues with e-scooters cluttering sidewalks. “From the short time Bird was operating in Asheville, and based on the experience of other cities, it appears that without proper regulation, e-scooters will be left on the sidewalks in a manner that blocks the public right of way, poses a tripping hazard and makes city sidewalks less safe for pedestrians,” he explains.

However, Putnam did not rule out the possibility of e-scooters ever returning to Asheville’s streets. The city’s transportation department is currently working on a bike and e-scooter share study, scheduled for completion in January, that could inform different policies and potential permitting options for Bird and other companies.

In other business

While the e-scooter ban is the only item of new business at the Nov. 27 meeting, Council will hear several presentations about ongoing efforts. These include the results of a nearly $320,000 study on racial and gender disparities in city contracting, the first such analysis since 1993, presented by Denver-based BBC Research & Consulting.

According to a presentation made available before the meeting, roughly $12.3 million of $118 million in city contracts from 2012-2017 was awarded to minority- and woman-owned businesses, a total of 10.4 percent. Of that allocation, nearly 85 percent went to firms owned by white women, leaving only $1.6 million for all other minority groups, consultants concluded.

By comparing this allocation to available minority business capacity, the consultants asserted that Asheville city government was substantially underutilizing companies owned by blacks, Asian Americans and Native Americans. Businesses owned by Hispanics and white women received an equitable share of contracts, but only for construction jobs.

The Asheville Buncombe Institute of Parity Achievement will present an overview of its Health Engagement Leading to Prevention pilot initiative at Arrowhead Apartments. The HELP program is designed to “train community members to serve as health workers in their own communities,” thereby reducing the burden on housing development managers.

“These low-income affordable housing complexes serve as home to a mixture of our community’s most high-need and high-risk populations,” ABIPA reported in its slide presentation, specifically citing the elderly and recently homeless. “Sustained and long-term interventions are critical to promote long-term health outcomes — fostering greater equity, connection and safety for everyone.”

Consent agenda

The consent agenda for the meeting consists of 11 items, which are typically approved as a package unless specifically singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include the following:

  • An ordinance raising city parking fines, effective Friday, Feb. 1. An overtime parking citation would be increased from $10 to $20, while the fee for parking in a loading zone would triple from $10 to $30.
  • A resolution setting a public hearing on Tuesday, Dec. 11, to consider an economic development grant for Burial Beer Company. City staff estimate that the  performance-based grant, not to exceed $30,000, could induce facility improvements of $1.8 million in value and create 17 new jobs.
  • A resolution to sign a memorandum of understanding with Homeward Bound of Western North Carolina to plan an 80-unit permanently affordable housing development on city-owned land at 29 Oak Hill Drive. Homeward Bound would develop a conceptual site plan and cost estimates to be considered by the city no later than September 2019.
  • A resolution accepting $2,832 from the FM Global Fire Prevention Grant to replace the Asheville Fire Department’s “Sparky the Fire Dog” costume. The department’s current costume is over 20 years old and “does not look like the official mascot,” according to interim Fire Chief Christopher Budzinski.

Asheville City Council meets at 5 p.m. in council chambers on the second floor of City Hall at 70 Court Plaza, Asheville. A work session to discuss potential city revenue sources will be held in the same space starting at 3 p.m. The full meeting agenda and supporting documents can be found here; supporting documents for the work session will be available on Monday, Nov. 26.



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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the former news editor of Mountain Xpress. His work has also appeared in Sierra, The Guardian, and Civil Eats, among other national and regional publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

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19 thoughts on “Council to consider formal e-scooter ban at Nov. 27 meeting

  1. dyfed

    Sure, Asheville has transit problems, but woe betide anyone who tries to solve them. They might cause someone to trip!

    • Lulz

      Only givernment is smart enough. Why that’s like saying enough of the hotels and yet they keep popping up. Must be because if one has enough money, they can do as they wish. The scooter guy didn’t pay the right people obviously.

  2. Jay Reese

    40,000 people and hundreds of thousand more are injured every year due to the automobiles so citing safety concerns about scooters, skateboard or bicycles demonstrates a serious bias. Now say what you want about these scooters clogging up the sidewalks but please cut the bs when talking about safety.

    • Lulz

      LOL they are? Care to break those numbers down by causes? Why your horsecrap does it include such thing as illegals? Drunks? Drugs? It’s nice you come up with stats but if one is breaking the law, they really mean nothing. You can’t toss around numbers as a basis to establish facts without breaking it down. And you sure as hell can’t compare them to the amount of miles safely driven each year and say that it’s a crisis.

      • Jay Reese

        The destructive nature of the automobile is inherent in its size and the speed in which it is operated. Obviously driver impairment due to intoxication, distraction or sleepiness plays a role but these same impaired riders on a scooter would cause far less damage to the community. Especially when you factor in all the externalities associated with driving like pollution, obesity and oil dependence. So even the people driving around without crashing are still harming the society

  3. Jon King

    Like almost all US cities, Asheville wasn’t designed with transportation options other than the automobile in mind. Asheville also has the distinct challenge of hilly topography; funneling traffic onto major roadways and making the construction of alternatives range from difficult to impossible.

    With the correct existing infrastructure, the Bird scooter could be a reasonable last-mile alternative. It is not a reasonable alternative in Asheville, and Council is correct to prohibit them from operating in the City.

    • Jay Reese

      Just because Asheville grew during a period of automobile centric development does not mean it can’t be redesigned for the future of transportation. You all need to wake and realize the automobile dominance is waning and it will soon be obsolete. Active transit is the future.

      • SpareChange

        If the proposal is for Asheville to have a thoughtful long term plan for the further development and redevelopment of its transportation infrastructure, with an eye on lessening people’s reliance on cars, then I’m all for that. However, Bird’s stick-in-the-eye business model is antithetical to such planning. Dumping hundreds of scooters on a small, busy downtown, without discussion with local authorities, without any policies in place to regulate their use, without any local say in the matter, is nothing but a “screw you” approach to business and to local residents.

        There is a reason that everywhere escooters have been deployed in this fashion, there has been a predictable, negative backlash. Asheville government is taking the right approach in asserting that the deployment of escooters has to be on terms that work for the community, and not because a company with no personnel, roots or interests here decides it wants to make a quick buck.

        • Jay Reese

          It seems to me Birds behavior is intentional just to create a conversation about urban transit. As far as I can tell it’s working and I believe these scooters will be part of our downtown transportation network in the future.

    • luther blissett

      “Asheville wasn’t designed with transportation options other than the automobile in mind.”

      As for Bird and other scooter companies trying to change the facts on the ground by dumping scooters in downtown areas, perhaps the usual suspects can tell us whether a vehicle capable of 15mph speeds belongs on the road or the sidewalk, and who’s liable for them being dumped wherever after use.

      • Jon King

        Asheville’s streetcars ran from 1889 to 1934: 45 years. In the intervening 84 years, the automobile has held sway. I’m completely dedicated to multi-modal transport, but it requires a plan and funding, not just dumping a bunch of scooters on the sidewalk.

        • luther blissett

          Nobody’s taking a mini-scooter from Beaver Lake to Lake Julian.

          I’m all for multi-modal, but my friends in other bigger cities have the same opinion on Bird and other scooter startups: on a personal level, they’re great to use; collectively, they need to be regulated.

  4. Enlightened Enigma

    Burial Beer Co out begging money from the taxpayers? Really? are they really that greedy ?

    • JLawrence

      What’s wrong with those nice people trying to improve themselves? I went and looked and took a sip and they are very impressive. You can be sure they’re not getting rich. So it’s not greed, Fisher. Jeez, do you always have to be so cynical?

      • Enlightened Enigma

        neither are MANY other local small businesses, but they are not grubbing taxpayer money!!! WTF ???

        • luther blissett

          They’ve already received $47,000 from the city and county and invested $1.8m of their own money in renovating the CCC forestry camp buildings off London Road. The grant would offset property taxes on the new site — assessed at the property’s new value — over five years. The project appears to have run behind schedule, since it was slated to open this summer. If, as you have noted, construction costs have risen sharply over the past year, it would be a shame if it were to fall through.

          • JLawrence

            I was at Burial Beer Co. on Collier yesterday for a 12 oz. brew, $6 a pop (plus a dollar tip), and the place was rocking. A fool and his money, heh heh heh, are soon parted.
            Lagunitas, Coors, Uinta, Heineken, Voodoo Ranger!
            Did I get Fish’s dander up, or what? He’s gonna cause us a shortage of exclamation points.

  5. City Council — the epitome of cluelessness!

    “Ordinances would prohibit the operation of any such self-propelled two-wheeled device, whether privately owned or rented from a company such as Bird, on all public property within Asheville city limits.”

    ??? Yet not long ago other certain very confused City Council members sought to ban automobiles and force people to use electric cars & bikes… now this very confused City Council wants to ban e-scooters???


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